A Closer Look: Jabari Bird

Salesian head coach Bill Mellis gives WildcatAuthority.com an inside look on Jabari Bird, one of the top prospects in the 2013 class.

WildcatAuthority.com: What type of kid is Jabari Bird on and off the court?

Bill Mellis: As a person first of all, he's a really terrific kid. He's very coachable, really likeable. He transferred to our school after his freshman year and he was a little high profile because he started to kind of be known in the area and make a name for himself. He came to our school and really just wanted to fit in. He wasn't trying to be a superstar or anything like that. So he's really very humble as well.

On the court, he's got all the tools. He can shoot it, he can get really explosive going to the basket, and he plays way above the rim. He's very talented, but at the same time he realizes that he wants to get better and that he has flaws and really tries to work on those things to continue to get better.

WildcatAuthority.com: What are his strengths as a player, and what does he still need to work on before he gets to the next level?

Bill Mellis: He's really a scorer. He can score the ball in different ways. He can score the ball inside; he can score the ball outside. Good offensive rebounds, like I said, he plays way above the rim. He really makes spectacular plays.

From a weakness standpoint, I think he realizes he needs to get better at better ball-handling, and probably needs to play a little better defensively, which I thought really improved during the year that he was with us. He's kind of a skinny kid, he definitely needs to put on some weight. He's been hitting the weights really hard, but he definitely needs to continue to get stronger.

WildcatAuthority.com: How much has he improved since you have been coaching him?

Bill Mellis: I think he's improved a lot. You could tell right from the beginning that he was very talented, but there were some things, just from a philosophical, defensive positioning, on-ball defense, just little things like that that I thought were kind of glaring at the beginning of the year. As the year went on, by the end of the year, I thought he was really one of our better defenders. He's not closed-minded, he realizes that he has flaws—I think he gets it from his dad, by the way. He realizes that he still has a long ways to go. And as talented as he is, he realizes that he has flaws and he has things that he can work on. I think his work ethic is every bit as important, every bit as crucial as anything.

WildcatAuthority.com: What kind of offense do you run?

Bill Mellis: We run kind of a dribble attack offense, which has become popularized by Memphis and now Kentucky.

WildcatAuthority.com: Is there an offense that you think he would be better suited for in college?

Bill Mellis: You know, not necessarily. I think he has a lot of different ways for him to score. He can shoot jumpers and he can attack the basket, so I think pretty much any offense that he plays in, he'll be able to adapt to it and be successful in it. I think right now he definitely thrives in an up-tempo kind of offense, but like I said, he can really shoot it, so if he plays for a coach that has him running offensive screens or something like that, he can definitely adapt to that way.

WildcatAuthority.com: How much of a role do you play in his recruitment?

Bill Mellis: It's kind of hard to say, I think I play a little bit of a role. I think his dad will play a big role and his AAU coaches will play a role. It's probably kind of a collective effort between the three. Any college coach that's going to recruit him will obviously talk to him, but will probably talk to me, as well as his AAU coaches and definitely his dad.

WildcatAuthority.com: What's he leaning towards at this early stage of the game?

Bill Mellis: You know it's kind of early. I think right now he's kind of thinking about the PAC-10, Arizona is probably at the top of his list. Having said that, this will probably be a big summer for him where things in his recruitment will pick up. I know that there are teams like Texas and Kansas and so on and so forth that are starting to see him.

I'm starting to get calls from some Big East schools and stuff like that. I think he's been known a little bit more on the West Coast, but as he's been going to some of these tournaments and as he goes to them throughout the summer, I'm sure his recruitment will pick up more on the national level. If he answered the question right now, it'd probably be Arizona. But like I said, it's still really early in the game.

WildcatAuthority.com: What does he like about Arizona?

Bill Mellis: I could see him fitting in there. I think Arizona has done a good job of recruiting and coming to see him play, whether it was our games or some of our workouts during the recruiting periods. I think also, the success that they had in the tournament, they had obviously a great run and I think that probably is attractive to him.

WildcatAuthority.com: He made a huge jump in the rankings. What do you attribute that to?

Bill Mellis: Probably just that he's starting to perform really well in some of these tournaments that he goes to, some of the AAU stuff. As he's starting to go up against good competition from other players and doing well, it's kind of become a little bit of an eye-opener to coaches.

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